YAP member makes local headlines for her 'game changer' idea to silence body shaming at club nights

16 June 2023

SNSW Youth Advisory Panel member Lauren Oberg, from the Taree Torpedos Swimming Club, has attracted local media attention with her project to educate adults at her club and change the language they use about swimmers and their bodies.

Her concern about body shaming and how this could be turning kids off the sport led to her 'game changer' idea, which she presented at the Youth Leadership Camp earlier this year. She called it ‘Shoosh Your Parents’, and it is all about keeping the pool deck and swim environment positive for the kids.

She insists swimming is for everyone, no matter the size or shape.

To help influence positive change at her club, Lauren has introduced a jar filled with blue water at club nights. Anyone caught making a negative comment (also known as ‘peeing in the pool’) must make a gold coin donation into the jar.

Lauren jar

By raising awareness of the harm negative comments can cause, Lauren said she was already seeing the culture begin to shift.

“The parents have all jumped on board and supported me and I think the project made them think about the message (as they have been a lot quieter!) I often hear the phrase "pee in the pool" at club nights - so at least it has them talking!” said Lauren.

“My club was supportive of my project and surprised when I made $43 on the first night and around $9 on the second night! This money was then donated back to the club to further benefit our swimmers.

“I hope to achieve a positive, fun pool deck where every swimmer feels comfortable, confident, happy and motivated. Because when a swimmer feels comfortable in their own skin, feels accepted and valued, and is having fun in an encouraging and supportive environment, they will want to keep swimming for longer. I would like to see the "Shoosh for Parents" go national in every sport!”

Taree Torpedoes Treasurer Ian Smith applauded Lauren’s initiative and agreed that her project was having an impact on the parents at the club.

“I think Lauren’s “Shoosh Your Parents” program is a great initiative. So many parents can be loud and say things that they don’t even realise when their kids are competing. When Lauren explained her program, it did make parents think,” said Smith.

Lauren’s ‘Shoosh Your Parents’ initiative is one of many ‘change maker’ projects conceived by this year’s Youth Advisory Panel members for the Swim Confident program, which was a key focus of the SNSW 2023 Youth Leadership Camp. YAP members were invited to consider initiatives that targeted four key areas: communication, clothing, culture, and connection.

Lauren said she had already benefitted significantly from her participation at the Youth Leadership Camp and on the YAP and hoped to lead further change that would help keep kids in the sport for longer.

“The decision to apply to be on the YAP was the best decision I have made,” said Lauren.

“SNSW has helped and supported me by providing this opportunity. At the camp, we were encouraged to step outside our comfort zone and participate in teamwork and leadership skills and we were guided through body image/body confident talks. I have made some amazing friends who all share similar interests and I feel that I have grown as a person. I feel confident, valued and really look forward to our zoom meetings where we can all have a voice. 

“While on the YAP, I hope to be able to encourage more kids my age to take on leadership roles and to come up with more initiatives that will keep kids in the sport for longer. I would like to help change the culture around body image, and to make the pool more inclusive for everybody. I would also like to push myself and see how far I can go.”

Mr Smith applauded the program adding that engaging the youth in conversations about how to improve enjoyment and participation in swimming was extremely beneficial, both for the individual and the sport as a whole.

“Overall benefit of YAP can only be described as positive and a great idea for swimmers,” said Smith.

“As a club we are quite proud to now have had two of our members selected onto the SNSW YAP. It is extremely important that swimmers get to have a say in their sport and be able to put forward ideas to implement to change or improve our sport.

“Not only this but the growth in these kids’ confidence is amazing. To be part of a group where ideas can be freely discussed with their peers is extremely important and I can say from Lauren’s involvement so far, the growth in confidence that I have seen – from when Lauren first presented her idea to the club, being able to grab the microphone and talk in front of everyone to when she redelivered the program a few weeks later – was truly amazing. 

“This engagement of these young people can be only beneficial for swimming as a whole. And if this confidence can carry over to other aspects of their life, it will stand them in good place for the future.”

Lauren and the other YAP members are determined to influence permanent change and with initiatives like this, they are well on their way to success. Swimming NSW and the Body Confident Collective are very impressed with their ongoing efforts to promote a positive body image and look forward to sharing more great achievements.

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